Mr. Silver: With almost no public consultation, the Government of Yukon has decided to proceed with a 300-bed continuing care facility in Whitehorse.
It will centralize continuing care in a one-size-fits-all type of way. The cost estimate for this new facility is $330 million, according to the government’s own reports. Clearly money is no object when it comes to continuing care in Whitehorse. At the same time, the government is proceeding with replacing McDonald Lodge in Dawson. While there were plans to make this a 20-bed facility, these have been scaled back to 15 beds.
People whom I spoke to in my community and other rural centres are interested in staying in their own communities, Mr. Speaker. They don’t want to move to a one-size-fits-all facility hundreds of miles away in Whitehorse.
Why is the government pursuing this centralized approach instead of focusing on keeping seniors in their home communities?Read more
Mr. Silver: The government is currently working with contractors to fix the Ross River School. One of the problems is obviously permafrost and the fact that the school is built on top of it. Now, it’s my understanding that there have been several different engineering reports done that outline these concerns and a contract is to be awarded later this week for repairs. I believe the contract is around the $2-million range.
Can the minister tell Yukoners how many engineering reports have in fact been done, and will they be available for the public?Read more
Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, the budget before us contains just under $10 million of funding as part of the Shakwak highway project. It is a far cry from the $40 million spent in 2006 and even the $25 million spent in 2012.
In recent years, the funding from the United States government for this project has dropped substantially. It gets worse, Mr. Speaker. The funding for that project for future years was cut off by the United States government in 2012. Since then, the government has been lobbying unsuccessfully to get this funding reinstated and it has also spent down what monies were banked over the years. This reserve is now almost empty.
Now the Premier confirmed in his budget speech that the future of this money “remains in limbo” — his words. Can the Premier confirm that over $180,000 has been spent lobbying United States politicians on this issue with no success?Read more
Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, for many years, the Yukon Liberal Party has been advocating for the government to adapt an independent power producing policy or an IPP policy. This initiative was first promised by this government in 2009. Similar to the government’s promise to create a mental health strategy for example, the commitment to an IPP policy has been an empty promise for many years. This policy, if it came forward, would enable independent producers to generate power to help the territory to meet present and future power demands. It has been six years since this promise has been made. Last fall, the minister said that it would be — and I quote: “…in place sometime within the first six months of 2015”.
Mr. Speaker, that’s only two months away. So far, this is yet another item that falls under the “unfinished business” column for this current government. Will this latest deadline be met or are we looking for another delay?Read more
Mr. Silver: Yesterday the Minister of Economic Development said that his focus remains on growing and diversifying the private sector economy. That is a good thing, Mr. Speaker, because our private sector needs some help right about now. Last week, Statistics Canada confirmed that we are in a made-in-Yukon recession. All around us in B.C. and the other two territories, the GDP is growing.
Under this government, Yukon has the worst-performing economy in Canada and our GDP has shrunk for two years in a row now. Now the latest employment figures show that the number of private sector jobs has dropped by 400 jobs from this time last year.
If the focus of this government is growing the private sector, why has the number of private sector jobs dropped in the last 12 months by 400 jobs?Read more
Mr. Silver: Last week, Statistics Canada confirmed what many Yukoners already know. We are in a made-in-Yukon recession. Under this government, Yukon has the worst performing economy in Canada and our GDP has shrunk two years in a row. No other jurisdiction in Canada can claim that dubious honour.
In last year’s budget, the Premier promised to undertake a red tape review for the regulatory burden facing Yukon businesses and provide a report on measures to reduce this burden. That commitment is now over a year old and has not been acted upon. Given our dismal economic performance in the last 24 months, small businesses need all the help they can get.
So Mr. Speaker, why has this commitment from last year’s budget not been met yet?Read more
Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, this week, Statistics Canada confirmed that we are in a recession. Yukon had the second worst GDP numbers in Canada in 2014, at negative-1.2-percent growth. On the other hand, GDP increased in British Columbia, Northwest Territories and Nunavut in 2014. Yesterday, the Premier blamed the downturn on mining. Let’s look at the neighbours and mining, Mr. Speaker. Northwest Territories’ GDP grew 6.8 percent and mining was up 21 percent. Nunavut’s GDP grew 6.2 percent in 2014. Mining increased by 9.9 percent. British Columbia’s GDP rose 2.6 percent — nickel, lead, zinc, ore mining all rose by 27 percent, mainly because of a new mine.
Our neighbours all saw economic growth last year and they all saw improvements in the mining sector. They are dealing with the same world mineral prices. Why is Yukon in decline when our neighbours are growing?Read more
Mr. Silver: For many years, the Yukon Party insisted that the upturn in our economy was due to its great management in the territory. This was particularly true of the mining industry. The Yukon Party has also taken credit during the good times. They have been unwilling, however, to accept any blame for the current economic slowdown that we are in. A report yesterday from Statistics Canada shows that our economic growth has stalled under this government. For the second year in a row, our economy has actually shrunk. In 2014, it shrunk by 1.2 percent. By most economists’ definitions, we are now in a recession.
Does the Premier accept responsibility for the fact that our economy has gotten smaller two years in a row, under his government’s watch, and that the Yukon is now in a recession?Read more
Mr. Silver: As mentioned earlier, visiting in the gallery today is Mr. Toews and his grade 11 social studies class from F.H. Collins. They provided the basis of the questions that I am going to ask the Minister of Education today.
The Auditor General’s report of 2009 stated that, for the 2007-08 school year, the average graduation rate for Yukon students was 58 percent, whereas the Yukon First Nation students’ graduation rate was 38 percent. The Yukon Department of Education annual report for 2010-11 found that half of rural First Nation students didn’t graduate, whereas graduation rates for other rural students were at 72 percent.
What is the government doing to ensure that the educational issues among Yukon First Nation students are being addressed in order to improve graduation rates?
Mr. Silver: In this year’s budget, there is $240,000 for a housing action plan. This is good news. The bad news is that it has been over two years since a former Yukon Party minister proudly boasted his government’s plan to develop a housing action plan for Yukoners. It was March of 2013 when this announcement was first made.
Two years later, Yukon residents who have, and continue to struggle with, housing issues are asking, “Where is the plan?” This is yet another item that falls under the unfinished-business column when it comes to this government’s track record.
The question is: When will this long-overdue plan be released to the public?Read more